PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – In 2019, The Players moves back to to March after 11 years in May. Instead of the final round landing on Mother's Day, it will be played on St. Patrick's Day next year. Here's what you need to know about the move:
The PGA Tour wanted to avoid competing with football. With two of its most significant events, the PGA Championship and the season-ending Tour Championship occurring during football season, they were losing television ratings and fan interest. The PGA agreed to move its championship from the beginning of the NFL preseason to make room for the Tour Championship, which will move from September to avoid the NFL regular season. The hope is that the ultimate event in the FedEx Cup playoffs will get more attention nationally in August. That necessitated the move of The Players to March.
What do the golfers think?
Tiger Woods, the only man to win the tournament in both March and May said this about the difference in the course this week: "This golf course, this time of year, is far shorter. It's always hot, ball's always flying, and with it all being Bermuda, we're getting run-out. In March, that's not always the case. There are numerous years that I've had -- we've all had mud balls and you have to deal with that type of difficulty coming into these greens. This time of year, no, ball's rolling, ball's flying, it's usually dry, these greens are always dry this time of year, so very different."
Two-time Players champion David Love III wrote this on PGATOUR.com about the move: "I liked the golf course better back in March, too. It can be blustery. It can be different weather. But I think the golf course plays better that time of year. It'll be firm. The more you get into the heat of the summer, it seems to soften up a little bit, whether it's the rain or humidity or whatever. For those of us who live in the area, we like the spring. March is when it starts warming up but it's not humid, so it's a good time of year to play golf."
How will it affect the course?
The grass on the course will be in a different state in March than it is in May, which will cause the course to play differently. It will also look different.
"We're going to have to over-seed everything. So that's a challenge in itself," said Jeff Plotts, director of golf course operations at TPC Sawgrass. "The good thing is we're going to be growing cool season grasses, so we'll have something that's actively growing throughout the winter months. Anytime we can have a little bit of control with something growing (it) makes us feel a little bit better. We're going to be able to tolerate wear a little bit better from the play and be able to condition the golf course."
For example, this year on March 14, which will be the first day of play at the tournament in 2019, the high was 64 and the low was 45. On March 17, the high was 84. Over the course of four days, there was a 39-degree difference from the lowest low to the hottest high.
Wind will also likely be a bigger factor in March, particularly as it tends to blow off the ocean with some intensity during that time of year, which can make the tee shot on the island green 17th particularly tricky.
"Sure we can be chilly (morning temps in the 50s) and rainy (more than 4” one year) but it’s the wind that will impact the actual players most," said The Weather Authority's John Gaughan. "Often, morning conditions are with light winds, yet the afternoon sea breeze can roar. Typically at least one March afternoon round will see winds gust over 20 miles per hour, something that we rarely saw with the The Players played in May."
How will it change things for fans?
For those who attend The Players, there may be a wider variety of attire demanded. More variable weather in March can mean sweaters or sundresses. Wind should impact both the play and the way the course is enjoyed. While hot weather can still creep in, colder, wetter weather is more common. Before the move from March, the tournament experienced several Monday finishes due to heavy rain during the week.